Chapter 62:


Couple That Can't Touch

It was time for the Cultural Festival at the school. I had spent the prior two weeks reflecting on Sakakibara-san's death. It was surreal. Even though I slowly understood my feelings, it was impossible to get used to them. I had no choice but to accept them.

Thanks to everyone supporting me, I never felt alone. I visited the mansion and ate there during the weekends. The mood became sad a few times, but it quickly lightened up as soon as we talked about the past.

I also gave myself an easel for my birthday, though it still was a few days away. It was the first thing I had bought on a whim with my own money and I was far from disappointed. It allowed me to focus on something at home and to work on Suzuka's gift outside of school, which was necessary if I wanted to finish it on time. I was already behind schedule, so I asked Sora-san to come to the apartment multiple times to teach me how to paint bodies.

The day of the festival was a nice break from school and from feeling down. Apart from being busy with our clubs, we visited other ones. Also, Suzuka and I ran into Yōko and Tazuko-san, who I never expected to know each other and even less to be a couple. But it was a nice surprise.

Everyone went home after the festival ended and Hisaki and I walked together to the apartment. He left soon after, not wanting to tell me where he was going—though I didn't insist much. He was probably going to see Sae-san.

I tried to finish the painting on my own, but I kept struggling to give the bodies the final details. I tried for a couple of hours until I gave up and called Sora-san to come and help me.

She arrived forty minutes later. I opened the door and we headed into my room. Although it was small, I didn't own a lot of stuff, so it was only a little cramped.

"What are you struggling with?" she asked as she stared at the painting.

"The arms. I know they are hugging, but I can't imagine the position properly."

I grabbed my notebook from my bed and showed her the drawing with countless faint lines of where I had erased marks. I didn't want to ruin the almost-finished painting, so I drafted everything before doing it on the canvas. My drawing skills were far from good—just like my painting skills—but they were enough.

Sora-san observed the drawing for a little before asking,

"Draw them. I want to see what mistakes you make."


It didn't take me long to do it. As soon as I finished, she noted the problems and told me how to fix them, accompanied by a little explanation. There only was one day left; not enough time to properly learn. But I promised myself to study as I should after.

Ten minutes later, I had come up with a decent position for the arms. Sora-san approved the drawing before I painted it into the canvas with extreme care.

It was done. My gift for Suzuka's birthday: a painting of us hugging, with the sky in the background. It didn't have many details nor was it of good quality, but I painted it with my emotions, which I hoped Suzuka would feel.

"Good job," Sora-san said. "You understood quickly even without much theory and practice. You are going to be a great painter."

"Thank you. Although I might choose another path related to art."

"Regardless, the knowledge you get from painting will be useful. I should leave since there's nothing more for me to do. It was fun teaching you."

"And you were a great teacher."

For the first time since I had known her, she smiled. Though only for a second. She walked out of the room and stepped out of the apartment. I followed her to say goodbye.

"Have a safe trip back home," I said.

"Goodnight," she replied, standing outside in front of me. "Araki-san, I have a last request."

"Last request? But you have never asked for anything—"

Not giving me time to react, she suddenly leaned forward and brought her face closer to mine until our lips met. After being paralyzed for a second, my brain processed the situation and I pushed her away.

"What are you doing?!"

The sound of a plastic bag hitting the ground made me look to my right. Suzuka stood petrified next to the stairs. Before I could say anything, she turned around and ran away.

"Wait, Suzuka!"

I ran after her. Even after years of her not competing anymore, she ran so fast that I was barely able to keep her in sight. We ran across two streets before reaching a park, where her ankle finally gave up and twisted, making her fall to the grass.



She slowly stood up and brushed herself off, but she never turned around to look at me. It wasn't necessary for me to realize how destroyed she was. Her hands were clenched into fists as she trembled.

I didn't know how I felt. Angry, frustrated, scared, or betrayed. Maybe all of them at once. But I couldn't even imagine how Suzuka was feeling.

"I didn't expect her to do that," I said. "I could've avoided it, but she suddenly jumped at me—"

"Stop. I-It wasn't your fault. I saw you pushed her away as soon as you could. Right?"

"I did."

"But it isn't fair. I don't even know who I should be angry at. Should I be angry? I feel angry. All of this feels surreal."

Not even knowing how I should've felt, I couldn't answer. I merely stood behind her. Her hands loosened, but her breathing had become heavy. I wanted to hug her, but I knew it wasn't going to help.

"Araki-san, Suzuka-san," Sora-san called as she arrived.

Suzuka's breathing abruptly stopped.

Sora-san continued, "I'm not here to give an excuse, but you deserve an explanation. I've been attracted to Araki-san since middle school, yet I never understood my feelings until we met again at the Club Fair. I wanted to approach him, but I realized you two were already together, so I kept my distance. It was of no use. I couldn't stop thinking about him and, knowing I was going to never get a chance to be with him, this was the only thing I could think of to get what I wanted. Obviously, I wasn't going to ask you for permission—"

I hadn't noticed Suzuka approaching Sora-san until Suzuka threw her hand at Sora-san's face to slap her.

"You stooped this low to get what you want?" Suzuka asked.

Sora-san's cheek instantly became red, yet I didn't feel bad for her at all.

"I deserve the slap and more. And yes, I always get what I want."


Suzuka was about to slap her again, but she held back. They stared at each other before Sora-san continued talking.

"That's the explanation. I never planned for Suzuka-san to see it; I apologize for that. Still, I knew Araki-san was going to tell you soon after. So, I will disappear from your lives. I'll delete your contacts and we'll ignore each other if we meet again. Farewell, Araki-san and Suzuka-san."

And like that, she turned around and walked away.

Suzuka stared at the ground and began crying. I stood beside her, frustrated about being unable to do anything to comfort her. She kept crying for a minute before sweeping her tears.

"Let's not talk until the party tomorrow night," she said. "I… think I just need time to process everything."


She limped as soon as she started walking.

"Suzuka, is your ankle okay?"

"I guess running wasn't the best idea," she giggled.

"Let me help you—"

"I'm fine. I'll sit while I wait for the taxi, so I won't walk much. You can go home," she said with a fake smile.

Defeated, I nodded and walked back to the apartment. Next to the door, inside the apartment, was the plastic bag Suzuka had dropped. Hisaki came out of his room when he heard me.

"What happened?" he asked. "I heard you yelling and then you were gone. Tadokoro-san left that bag here before leaving."

"I'll tell you later. Right now I just want to sink my face into my bed."


I locked myself in my room and lay down, thinking how easily everything could've been avoided if I had noticed Sora-san's intentions before now.

The night passed slowly and the next day went by slowly as well. I received messages from Mom and Father, wishing me a Happy Birthday. Also on behalf of Moriyama-san, Fujisaki-san, and Yoshimura-san.

In the middle of the bittersweetness, we were going to throw the party we had been planning for almost a month to celebrate both Suzuka's and I's birthday at the same time. More than a party, it was a sleepover.

Everyone arrived in the evening: Kawahara-san and Tarō-san, Hashimoto-san and Rem-san, and Sae-san. Suzuka didn't arrive until one hour later, with her guitar case wrapped around her body.

We barely glanced at each other throughout the evening until midnight, which was when we planned to celebrate. Everyone wished us a happy birthday and gave us their gifts. Then, it was time for Suzuka and I to wish each other Happy Birthday. About to stand up to go for the painting, Suzuka unzipped the guitar case and took the guitar out. She stood up in the middle of the living room, took a deep breath, and started playing a song.

I didn't recognize the song, but I quickly realized she had made it for me. It was mostly a calm song with a beautiful arrangement of notes and chords, but it constantly transitioned into epic segments which I never expected to be possible to be played on a guitar. She never looked at me nor sang any lyrics, but I felt she was talking to me through the notes.

A couple of minutes later, it seemed the song had ended, but Suzuka suddenly continued playing, this time with lyrics. Although there were only a few words, the meaning was clear for me. Our relationship was going to need healing before it could return back to normal. But she was going to give her best and so would I.

Once she finished playing for real, I approached and hugged her. No more words were needed.

Everyone clapped. I wanted to tell them about what had happened, but I wasn't sure if Suzuka wanted that. And it would've ruined the sleepover's mood, so I didn't say anything. Instead, I headed to my room and brought the painting to the living room.

Everyone looked at it, greatly surprised. Suzuka stared at it for a while before jumping at me and squeezing me. She buried her face in my chest. I could feel her crying bittersweet tears, but I believed we were moving in a good direction to heal.

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